Not a designer? Not to worry. Shutterstock Create has email marketing templates to make your next send simple and effective. Give your emails a design treatment that engages readers and increases click-throughs.
Email marketing is one of the most popular and efficient ways to connect with an audience and generate recurring revenue. But, that means there’s a lot of email clutter out there and missed opportunities. Inboxes are practically overflowing. Your email has to be just a little better than the rest to stand out.
You’ve got to create an email that delights—something that users look forward to seeing in their inboxes. A strong, creative email design can facilitate user interaction, increasing visits to your domains and positively impacting conversions.
Our guide will put you on the right path to executing creative email designs. Plus, we’ve got tons of inspo, email header templates, and tips on all things Create!
Before You Begin. . .
Start by choosing a responsive email format. This will optimize your email designs for a variety of screen sizes, so they look great on phones and desktop computers. In Create, you’ve got options for email headers, email signatures, or long, short, and medium emails.
On that note, over 46% of email opens happen on mobile, meaning you should always design with small screens in mind. Use bigger, touch-friendly buttons and graphics that still look good when shrunk down.
A key to effective email marketing is to give users just enough—but not too much. Set a goal for each message you plan to send and create an email design that directs users to that goal. Usually, you’re guiding them to your website to read something, buy something, or sign up for something.
Ready to get started? Here are a few tips and examples to inspire you along the way.
Start with a Call-to-Action
Before you can even start to plan the design, you must first answer this key question: Why are you sending the email? Each email design needs to have a distinct purpose. What do you want users to do after they receive the email? In other words, what is the call-to-action (CTA)?
A call-to-action is more than a button, it’s the defining purpose of your email. If you market strategically, it will guide the entire design. Always ask yourself, “What do I want users to do when they open my email?” and use the answer to inform your layout, imagery, and copy decisions.
An email that’s trying to get users to buy something will likely prioritize product images and display discounted prices prominently with several buttons that link to unique product pages. On the other hand, an email that wants users to read content might prioritize a catchy headline, followed by a text preview, and engaging, relevant imagery.
Loft uses an uncomplicated drawing illustration with witty copy to draw readers in. Of course, everyone’s familiar with the phrase, Go big or go home. Riffing on a well-known phrase boosts recognition while introducing a playful spin.
In this discovery-type email, the goal is to lead customers to the site to browse a collection and, hopefully, make a purchase. Their distinct call-to-action is particularly effective because it tells email recipients exactly what will happen with a click: “Shop now.” It’s simple, direct, actionable, and much more interesting than the standard “Click here.”
Use Negative Space to Your Advantage
Many website designs have you trained to fill the screen with a background image, color, or pattern. This isn’t always the best option with email design. Many email programs still don’t render colored backgrounds well.
A white canvas can be an amazing design tool. It lets your text and images shine, and prevents the space from cluttering up. It’ll also naturally be centered in the viewable content area. This matters to users because every person might look at the email in a different way—as a full screen message on a desktop, in an email preview window, on a tablet, or on a phone—but every experience should be equally pleasing.
An email without a background gives you design options that can be quite attention-grabbing. Clothing vendor, J. Crew, uses a white background and image area to help high-color images jump out of the design. The white background also makes the red bag, blue shirt, and stripes stand out more, driving users to click to shop—which is ultimately the goal of this email.
On Lyft’s product email, their bright magenta branding is undeniable against a stark white background. The effect is a clean and modern email with big impact. With a different accent color, this email might have fallen flat, but it’s the perfect combination of soothing negative space and bright colors.
Embrace the Scroll
Email design also looks a little different from other traditional marketing materials or website concepts because they’re vertical. For the most part, they’re designed in a scrolling format with stacked information.
Scrolling comes naturally to Internet users, and they usually expect it. You can design the email around this by encouraging the scroll with imagery and copy, and offering CTA’s along the way to make sure you capture curious users.
This doesn’t mean you should cram as much information into the email as possible. Keep things simple, and use the scroll to your benefit. It still helps to keep critical messaging at the top so that those scanning the email can still catch the gist.
In this ingenious email, Sephora uses the vertical format to showcase the length of their welcome email. Of course, welcome emails likely come with a bit more info than a new product release or seasonal announcement.
Give folks a lay of the land and make them feel right at home with a longer-is-better format. That way, your audience has time to read through all pertinent info. It’s a clever way to keep users engaged, highlight their product, and get eyes all the way to the bottom.
Don’t fight the scroll. Users understand and expect this pattern.
Use Color to Your Advantage
Color can be the first step in getting people to pay attention.
Bright, bold colors—even two shades of the same color—can draw the eye. This email design is so impressive because part of the email has a watery background, whereas the other part is solid, but still water-related.
To do this in Create, simply find the Textures > Water category and select your favorite. If you do this after the text is on the canvas, the text will be filled with the texture. The top part of this email is designed to provide an immersive experience. The second half provides the announcement, CTA, or reward (like a discount) for reading the email.
You can also color coordinate, as Jet cleverly does in this all-purple email. Not only do they highlight a wide variety of products, but they also tie everything back to their own brand color. Plus, bet you’re singing this in your head right now, eh?
Strong Headlines + Background Texture
You only get a few words to draw users into the email. It starts with the subject line and then the headline inside the email.
Great messaging will always improve the success rate of email messages. But, there’s a design trick you can use as well: Put the main headline front and center. Don’t make users scroll through the email to figure out what’s important in the message. Start with a direct headline.
Don’t be afraid to be bold with language, color, or design. “Let’s stay together” in all caps prompts immediate intrigue, all-the-while pairing a bright, bold yellow with a light teal and abstract frame. These accents, when paired with a plain white background, are sure to wow. The unexpected in email marketing, when used strategically, is always welcome.
To customize with your own textures in Create, simply select the Textures tab and peruse your favorites. Something similar to the black and white frame above could be found in the Retro Patterns or Abstract Patterns category.
Use Effective Imagery
Users probably aren’t going to spend a lot of time with your email. You only have a few seconds at the most to grab their attention and spur action. Incorporating simple, easy-to-understand images into the email design is the best way to accomplish this.
- Use imagery that users connect to your brand
- Opt for high-quality, high-resolution images that are sharp and interesting
- Look for fun colors and shapes to help draw the eye
- Remember that the image might be small so it needs to be easy to view at any size
Marketing is all about the subliminal messaging. When you can tug at a consumer’s heartstrings, you’ve got a loyal customer for life.
This email template uses imagery with a simple subject yet a big travel brand impact. The dreamy, filtered image of the land is highly enticing for new visitors and natives alike. The image shines through short, accessible copy, and a big call-to-action button encouraging users to book their stay now.
In Create, take advantage of the Effects tab to change each image as you see fit. We’ve got vintage, retro, black and white, you name it!
Opt for Readable Typefaces
For the body of your email, stick with a web safe font to guarantee consistent rendering across platforms. If you choose to incorporate graphics with a text overlay, be cautious with your typeface choices.
Email messaging needs to be clear—and it also needs to be highly readable.
A sans-serif typeface with a uniform stroke width in a standard weight is recommended for text elements. Try to avoid typefaces that are too thin or thick because they can be more difficult to read, especially on smaller screens.
Look for fonts that have more rounded letterforms rather than condensed shapes. A good trick is to look at the lowercase “o.” Is it round or more of an oval? If you see an oval, the typeface is likely more narrow overall and harder to read in a digital format.
If your style guide suggests a more complex typeface, use it sparingly or only for the logo or header. Inboxes are so cluttered that if you don’t make messaging almost too easy to read, it’s easy for emails to get lost.
For more on font pairing guidance, be sure to check out this tutorial next.
Try Out Some Animation
Small touches of animation are beginning to pop up in email designs—and not just for ads!
From embedded video and GIFs to scrolling text, simple animation can increase user interaction. It will demand users’ attention because it is different. But don’t overwhelm them, stick to simple, subtle motion. Stay away from multiple moving objects that all compete for attention.
The animation is simple, moves quickly, and is lightweight enough that there’s no drag when the email loads.
Craft Your Own Email
Crafting a great email isn’t a five-minute task. It takes time to develop a template, craft a message, and design a package that users will want to open.
The great part about email marketing, though, is it comes with plenty of metrics to help you measure effectiveness. If you aren’t getting the desired result, you can look at opens and clicks to help determine what users are (and aren’t) responding to, to help evolve your email designs.
You can create many of the visual elements showcased in the examples above using Shutterstock Create. The tool is designed to help even non-designers create attention-grabbing visuals, including images that you can use in email marketing designs. Try it out and see for yourself.
License this cover image via ProximaCentauri1, Prostock-studio, SAMDesigns, SAMDesigns.